Party as a verb

The deafening silence on this blog is attributable to one thing only: the obscene workload of preparing for our holiday party. Trying to one-up ourselves each year seems to be driving us asymptotically closer to insanity. And yet, it is a damn good time, bigger than Christmas day in some ways. Certainly more work, usually more fun. It all went down on Saturday night.

We were worried about the fire marshal and the ATF. The first because we invited way too many people and we don’t have a gigantic space. The second because, well, let’s just say the freeze-distillation of the homemade apple cider succeeded.

To combat the crush of people that inevitably orbit the bartender we devised a few ploys to get people down into the basement/mancave. We set up a DJ table downstairs. Two laptops — one running the Hercules DJ Console, the other running Ableton Live — were connected to a two-channel mixer which hooked into the stereo system. The trusty Denon AVR-4306 (oh how I love that piece of machinery) ably handled playing Christmas tunes upstairs and the mixer’s output downstairs. Everyone wants to be a DJ and, after a few drinks, no one seems to care that you aren’t. (Beatmatching, like downhill skiing, is not really something to be done drunk.) It was great fun.

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We also set up a prom-style photo wall, inspired by an excellent photostream on Flickr (which I cannot find at the moment) link (thanks, Craig). Borrowing a friend’s kickass SLR and installing some remote control software we were able to rig it so that the revelers had only to hit F9 to take their own shots. A laptop displayed the output immediately. 800 photos later, I am amazed at what people will do in front of a camera. In any event, the ploys worked and by 9pm the basement was throbbing with people vamping for the camera and thumping to the choons.

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Adding to the rave-like quality on the lower level were this year’s party favors. Traditionally we’ve created a mix using Coudal’s superb Jewelboxes. One of the great things about these cases is that the hinge between the covers creates a nifty little chamber. Coudal encourages creative uses of the chamber so last year (for a mix called “Shaken”) I filled the chamber with red, white, and green Tic Tacs. I was pleased with the results. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Coudal actually now has an entire sub-line of Jewelboxes with Tic Tac-filled hinge chambers! Flattering, I suppose. (Hard not to love Coudal. Even if they did steal my idea!)

Anyway. The rave-like quality. This year I searched high and low for glow sticks that were the proper size for the hinge chamber. My idea was to have red and green glowing CDs. Turns out glow sticks are made in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes for everything from costumes to golf balls to fishing lures. This last category — called Lunker Lights — was the perfect size for the chamber. The effect was stunning — though it only lasted for about 8 hours. Rave on! (For those who enjoy stylistically schizophrenic playlists, the tracks are listed here.)


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Our ATF worries were less Ruby Ridge, more Al Capone. There’s nothing wrong with making your own hard cider, of course. It turned out very well, if a little dry. But the real hit of the party was the Applejack. This potent distillate is made by putting a quantity of cider out in the snow for a few days, letting the non-alcoholic liquid (which is most of it) freeze, scraping that off, repeating. Liquid volume reduction, no alcohol reduction. (Some pics at the end of this photoset.) You can figure out the rest. It isn’t precisely legal, but then who says I didn’t just leave the tub out in the snow by accident? Calvados is the name of store-bought heat-distilled Apple liqueur. I’m quite certain it tastes nothing like my Applejack. But people clearly drank it at the party and, refreshingly, we’ve had no reports of blindness or death.


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The last bit of party fun for which I was responsible (i.e. those things having nothing to do with food or decoration) was the train track. Every year we alter the track layout a bit and this year, frankly, we might have overdone it. For years we’ve had the traditional living room and tree base interlocking loops. But that’s for amateurs we decided. And by we I mean, me and my two sons. Nah. I just mean me. So we devised the trans-dining room spur. Since we were cramped for space I laid out a single track that would head into the dining room, loop around a side table, and then return on the same track. Silly me. Electricity (which flows in the tracks and powers the engine) no likey being made to double-back on itself. So that was a colossal failure. “Daddy, why can’t you make the train run?” [heart rends] I didn’t realize you had to be an electrical engineer to build a toy train.

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This set off a quest for two reverse loop track thing-a-ma-bobs. Inserting these into a loop of track basically segments off a stretch of track with reverse polarity so that the electrons may once again be happy and your train may run … until it gets to the junction point of the original polarity whereupon it stops and you have to go over to the control panel and reverse the direction manually. Way too cumbersome and not at all fun. So, we had to pitch the spur idea. But did we pitch the trans-dining room express? Hell no. We just made it bigger so that we could have a full fledged electrical physics-behavin’ loop. This was a source of great displeasure for my wife. (“Do you know how many drunk women in high heels are going to trip on that?!”) Chugga-chugga choo-choo.

Let’s end with the stats:

76 people drank …
2.5 handles of vodka
3/4 bottle stoli vanilla
1/3 handle gin
1 bottle scotch
4 cases of beer
2 bottles champagne
1 liter coke
1/2 handle bourbon
3 bottles merlot
3 bottles red zin
2 bottles chardonnay
1 bottle pinot grigio
1 bottle pinor noir
16 oz. homemade cider
1/2 gallon homemade applejack (god help ‘em)
and ate …
9 lb ham
36 rolls
1 9×13 spinach squares
50 bacon-wrapped dates
1 bucketload of queso
2 mega-bags Fritos scoops
1 plate asparagus appetizers
2 loaves pepperoni bread
2 dozen mini-cupcakes
1/2 recipe goat cheese torta
assorted Twinkies, Ho Ho’s and cupcakes
1 apple cake
1 9×13 gooey toffee butter bars
dozens of sausage bites (1.5 packs of puff pastry)
1/2 recipe Oreo truffles
1 bag hugs pretzels
prosciutto swirls
and did not eat …
choco-covered fruits
my sister’s cookies
fudge
pralines
brownies

Until next year, happy holidays!